Action Hero Names And Backgrounds

So reading this Nader Elfhefnawy speculation on “Thrillers and Social Class” brought me to some of my thoughts I had on the subject.

  • A lot of character background in the pulpier stuff extends only to their ability to buy their arsenals. John Rourke somehow got the money to build his mountain bunker lair, his wife wrote children’s books, and that’s basically all we know of his pre-apocalyptic social status. It’s generally not mentioned that much.
  • W.E.B. Griffin preferred wealthy characters for the flippant explanation of “Rich people are more interesting than poor people. “
  • Irish names seem to be strangely common. John Rourke, Blake Murdock, John Brannigan, and of course, Blaine McCracken are some of the names I’ve seen. I honestly think this is a pure coincidence that wasn’t conscious on the part of any of the authors, but an interesting one nonetheless.
  • I’ve encountered three different main characters by three different authors who all have the last name “Stone”. Mark Stone, Luke Stone, and now John Stone. It’s a coincidence with a common name, I’m sure, but still interesting as well.
  • The worst cases have obvious author Mary Sues. For instance, Ben Raines in William W. Johnstone’s Ashes series mysteriously was a paperback book author before becoming Mary Sue Alexander Temujin.

 

Having a Personal Ending

What prompted this post was an announcement that Starbreeze/Overkill is beginning work on new content for Payday 2 again, as part of a desperate attempt to milk their lone cash cow even further to try and bide time for Payday 3 development. (It’s probably the least bad thing to do, but that’s another story)

Now that game, in its weird plot progression from story-less homage to classic heist movies to ridiculous tie-ins to what could have been a Jon Land novel just ended well. Having some sort of follow-on just seems like disrupting a good moment. Though I’m waiting until I see the content before I pass judgement on it specifically, I can feel comfortable saying that in my personal canon, the saga ends with confronting an evil dentist next to an alien MacGuffin in a cave underneath the White House.

And well, it’s not the only one where I’ve felt like I’ve had a stronger “personal ending”. There’s another, far more famous setting that I have a personal ending for, and, unlike Payday’s, it wasn’t originally planned as the official conclusion. That would be Jack Ryan. For all its other faults, The Sum Of All Fears is a near-perfect conclusion to the saga of Jack Ryan, Cold Warrior. And finally, I haven’t had much interest in the recent revival of the Survivalist series. I might check them out, but as far as I’m concerned, the story of John Rourke ended in Death Watch (if not the ninth/tenth book, a more ideal stopping point).

An area where I didn’t have a personal ending comes from the Blaine McCracken novels, mostly just because how disappointing the last-for-a-while installment, Dead Simple, was. I also don’t have them in many settings that are inherently open-ended.

But some settings/franchises/series just have a moment that seems so appropriate that I can’t help but go “That’s where it deserved to end.”

The Megabinge

Around this time last year, I began reading Total War, the first book in Jerry Ahern’s incredible, and incredibly ridiculous Survivalist series. I ended up wolfing down all of the 27 numbered books there. Since then, the closest I’ve come is Jon Land’s Blaine McCracken series, but that’s eleven books and I read them over a (somewhat) longer period.

I’m wondering if I’ll ever megabinge something like the Survivalist series again. I’d need a series that, besides being long, had these factors.

  • Was well written enough to keep me following it.
  • Had a serial format and a overall plot interesting enough to keep me following it.
  • Didn’t face competition from another author/series.

So I haven’t slopped into the mood, but you never know…

Reading a long series

So, it’s not uncommon for me to face a long series. Many cheap thrillers in particular have huge numbers of installments in them. The pattern I faced with the Survivalist – grab the whole thing and read it all from start to finish – isn’t necessarily the best. And not just because I’m leery of repeating the gonzo “27 BOOKS I CAN DO THIS!” attitude. Ahern’s knack for long , connected “soap operas” was different from many other books aiming for each installment to be as self-contained as possible. So if there isn’t an explicit connection, then I tend to go for…

  • The initial one. First because it’s the sane place to start, and also because first impressions matter to me.

If it’s short, I just grab the whole series if the first book is good. If not, then…

  • The installment(s) with the most out-there premise. I can read five books about Mack Bolan facing mobsters/terrorists, or I can read a book where he fights some weirdly supernatural, out-of-character opponent. The latter seems more appealing.
  • Failing that, the installment generally considered either the best (obvious reason) or worst (Is it really that bad?).

 

My favorite part of book blogging

I’ve done a lot of book blogging and reviewing even before Fuldapocalypse started, and far and away my most favorite part is finding a hidden, obscure delight of a book and thus being able to share it with the internet. Oh, I like reviewing big-name books from time to time, and they can be good.

But they’re not the most fun to review. The most fun to review are when I look for the book with the most zombie sorceress induced “Arkansas vs. the blimps” premise, find it, and then discover that it’s actually a good tale beyond it. There was Team Yankee and Tin Soldiers, the classic tank novels. There were many more good authors I found. The crowning glory of this was the Survivalist, where I took the plunge and read over two dozen books of ramping-up-crazy.

In fact, one of the biggest “problems” I have with my blog is as follows. Do I continue reading existing authors, which are harder to review for even if good (because you’ve already said what exists about it) or take a chance on unknown ones (which can be very good or very bad)? It’s ‘tough’, but it’s a good ‘problem’ to have.

Fuldapocalypse Week In Review 2/17-2/23

Under the experimental “three books a week” schedule, this past week I reviewed three books on Fuldapocalypse, my other blog.

Carrier: Enemies – A book with horrible fundamentals (as in, the plot involving the main antagonist is ultimately left unfinished), but which attracted my attention via an enemy bizarre even by 90s technothriller standards (Greece)

Strikemasters – A Mack Maloney treat. Maloney is not afraid to go “Prepare book for ludicrous speed”, and he can do genuine drama as well in this tale of super C-17s.

Death Watch – The final book in Jerry Ahern’s decade-plus epic soap opera that had long ceased to be post-apocalyptic in the slightest. In my opinion, primarily interesting for seeing “what does the twenty-seventh book in a prolonged series truly look like?”

Long Series

There’s two main ways a long series can decline, I’ve found.

The two are:

  • Type 1: The author’s heart isn’t in it. It’s continued for financial or just sunk-cost thinking reasons, it might be farmed out to ghostwriters who only care about the paycheck, and there’s just less passion.
  • Type 2: The author has become successful and/or confident enough that they can go hog-wild, any editorial or self-restraint goes out the window and the whole thing can turn into a vanity project the writer likes more than the readers.

Note these are not incompatible (author is tired so they make it more ridiculous to help themselves through it…), and Type 2 can shift into Type 1 pretty quickly.

Having read all 27 (!) books in Jerry Ahern’s Survivalist series, it devolved into Type 2 around the tenth or eleventh book once it kept going past a good stopping point and stayed there for the entire rest of the series.

Harry Potter got hit with Type 2 pretty hard after the third book, in my opinion, while a lot of mystery novels tend to become Type 1-as did Janet Evanovich, sadly. (I loved one of her early Stephanie Plum novels despite not being the target audience, but looking at a later one showed she’d lost her touch)